Amateur swimmer Alan Skilton has set out to swim twenty miles to raise money for Exeter Leukaemia Fund (ELF), which provided support following his stepson’s leukaemia diagnosis.

Alan is undertaking his marathon challenge at Parklands Leisure Centre in Okehampton, where he plans to swim the twenty miles (1,300 lengths in a 25 metre pool) over the course of 12 weeks.

He hopes to raise at least £1,000 for ELF, the Exeter-based charity which provided him and his family with excellent support after his stepson, Benjamin, was diagnosed with an untreatable form of leukaemia.

He said: “Benjamin passed on 29 June, which was very very painful. However, the situation would have been even more painful had it not been for ELF.

“They did things like pick Benjamin up [for hospital appointments] because he had to go in three times a week to have blood transfusions.

“At the end of the cancer ward at RD&E (Royal Devon and Exeter hospital), there’s a hospice unit which ELF pay for. It’s got a bedroom for the patient, a kitchenette, and then there’s a bedroom ensuite for relatives. Gabrielle (Benjamin’s mum and Alan’s wife) moved in there when we knew Benjamin was coming to the end and it gave them complete privacy.”

Gabrielle, who has since become involved in ELF’s work, added: “We want to raise money for them. They must have spent a fortune just supporting my son, let alone all the other things they do.

“At the hospital, there’s a cafeteria and the staff who run it are volunteers. If you’re stressed, you haven’t thought about bringing your purse or anything - a lot of people are stressed - they just give you your order and provide a donation box on the side if you want to use it.”

Alan Skilton (Tindle)

Alan started his challenge on Monday (March 11) and will be a fixture in the Parklands pool on Sunday and Monday mornings for the next three months. He has already raised half of his target amount, but hopes he can exceed £1,000.

He also hopes to use the challenge as a way of increasing his own fitness following a health scare of his own when doctors discovered an aneurysm in his brain.

In the past two years since the surgery to remove the aneurysm, Alan has lost six stone and aims to lose another four and reach his target weight during his ELF fundraiser swim.

ELF receives no government funding and is reliant on charitable donations to keep its services running, including the transport service on which Benjamin and his family relied; the special hospice unit at the RD&E and family support services.

ELF supports people and families suffering with blood cancer and other disorders at the Haematology Centre at the RD&E.

The charity was founded in 1980 by Dr Miles Joyner, a consultant haematologist at the RD&E, who wished to improve the lives of patients with blood cancer and blood disorders.

To donate to Alan’s cause, visit

For more information about ELF, visit